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To some it may seem old fashioned, or a thing of the past, but family meals are a proven way to help strengthen families. Years of research has found that the more children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they were to smoke, drink or use drugs. Why? Eating dinner together has a positive effect on social development, family communication, nutritional intake and the development of the family structure.  The conversations that go hand-in-hand with dinner help parents learn more about their children’s lives and help them better understand the challenges their kids face each day.

The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in a research survey of teens and parents found that,  compared to teens who have five to seven family dinners a week, those who dine with their families fewer than three nights are:

  1. Three and a half times likelier to have abused prescriptions drugs
  2. Three times likelier to have tried marijuana
  3. More than two and a half times likelier to have tried cigarettes
  4. One and a half times likelier to have tried alcohol

CASA research shows teens are at a greater risk of substance abuse as they move from middle school to high school. It is especially important for parents to stay involved during this time.  Dinner is one way to make this happen.  It is never too early or too late to start the tradition of regular family dinners with your children.

Besides getting to know your children/teens better, there are other advantages to having frequent family dinners. When children and teens eat at a family table they:

  • Have healthier eating habits
  • Have lower levels of tension and stress at homefamily meal
  • Are more likely to say their parents are proud of them
  • Are likelier to say they confide in their parents
  • Are likelier to make better grades in school
  • Are more emotionally content and have positive relationships
  • Are at lower risk for thought of suicide

As a parent of five children, I know all too well, the battles of balancing work and family to get the meal on the table with the majority of the children each night, but with some planning, you can outwit common family mealtime obstacles and use dinner as a forum to strengthen family ties.   Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Set the mood.  Try eating at a clutter-free table without the television in the background, and no handheld devices.
  • Divide and conquer.  Let everyone help.  Many busy hands make the job easier.
  • Plan ahead.  Be sure all family members know what you expect, when to have their hands washed and their appetites ready.  Dinner does not have to be at the same time every night but let family know in advance.  Posting the menu on the refrigerator is a good idea.  Let the children choose what foods they would like to eat.
  • Cook up the conversation.  Save unpleasant topics for another time.  Be a good listener.  Practice reflective listening and use “I” messages.
  • “May I be excused?”  Clearly define the end of the meal.  Relax, and enjoy the meal together.

Remember that families do not change overnight.  Make small changes each day or week.  Time flies by so quickly in this fast-moving world, but remember that what your kids really want at the dinner table is YOU!

Sources:

Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (2001), May 9, 2001. http://www.casacolumbia.org/index/htm.

Compan, E., Moreno, J., Ruiz, M.T., & Pascual, E. (2002). Doing things together: Adolescent health and family rituals. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,  56: 89-94.

Ohio State University Extension, Ohioline, Factsheet FLM-FS-4-03. http:/ohioline.osu.edu.

Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County

Reviewed by: Kristen Corry, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Noble & Monroe Counties

Asparagus, a member of the lily family, is available from April to early June. It is fat and sodium-free, with about 35 calories per cup. This nutrient rich food is filled with folate; vitamins A, C, and K; potassium; and iron. These nutrients are shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. White asparagus is grown out of the sun and contains fewer nutrients than green, while purple asparagus contains additional anti-oxidants.

To select the best asparagus – look for straight and firm stalks. Avoid wilted or limp stalks. Selecting stalks that are uniform in size will assist with cooking. Asparagus is easily perishable, for optimum quality keep at 40 degrees or below and use within one to two days. Wash with cold water only before using, to prevent bacterial growth.

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can be used in salads, soups, or main dish recipes.1574360-SMPT

To steam: bring an inch of water to a boil, insert rinsed stalks, and cover pan. Stalks will be done in 2 to 5 minutes – based on thickness of stalks.

To microwave: rinse stalks and place on microwave safe plate with about 2 tablespoons of water, cover and microwave 2 to 3 minutes – until done.

To roast: preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rinsed stalks on foil-lined sheet. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes until tender-crisp. Parmesan cheese is also a tasty option on roasted stalks.

To grill: place stalks on grilling skewers or grill griddle, brush lightly with olive oil, grill 2 to 5 minutes – turning once.

To freeze asparagus for future use: sort stalks to similar size; blanch by placing in boiling water for 90 seconds – small stalks, 2 minutes for medium stalks, and 3 minutes for larger stalks; cool immediately in ice water; pat dry and place in freezer bags. Stalks may be left whole or cut into 2 inch sections before starting the blanching process.

Seasoning options for asparagus include soy sauce, sesame oil or seeds, lemon juice, parsley, or vinaigrette dressing.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu.

Reviewer: Cindy Shuster, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.

Sources:

Utah University Cooperative Extension, https://extension.usu.edu/admin/files/uploads/Viva%20Vegetables%20Asparagus%20Recipes.pdf.

Ohioline, Ohio State University Extension, B. Brahm, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5508.pdf.

Washington State University Extension, http://county.wsu.edu/chelan-douglas/health/Documents/Asparagus%20Information%20and%20Springtime%20Warnings.pdf.

Photo credit: Gerald Holmes, Valent USA Corporation, Bugwood.org.

There are some specific nutrients we are looking to gain when consuming dairy and not all milk is created equal. So let’s crack the shell on nut milk and see how some popular milk alternatives stack up to cow’s milk when it comes to the nutrition facts label.

picture of milk

Cow’s milk

Nutrition Facts: Non-fat Skim Milk 83 Calories, 0g Fat, 8g Protein, 12g Carbohydrate, 30% DV Calcium 

Cow’s milk is a nutritional powerhouse. It is one of the most nutritionally dense beverages we can consume; containing a unique package of nutrients. At just 83 calories per cup, non-fat skim milk provides nine essential nutrients (1). Milk is also a great source of complete protein, which is found in animal products. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids (the ones that our bodies do not make). In terms of protein quality and content per serving, you can’t beat cow’s milk. Animal products such as cow’s milk also contain cholesterol, which should be limited to less than 300 mg per day (2). One 8 ounce glass of skim milk contributes less than 5mg of cholesterol, making it part of a heart healthy diet. Three servings per day of dairy is associated with better weight management, bone health and reduced risk of certain chronic diseases (1).

Cow’s milk provides a wide variety of benefits but dietary restrictions including allergies, intolerances and vegan lifestyles create the need for milk alternatives.

*FYI- The nine essential nutrients found in cow’s milk are also found in milk alternatives. However, calcium, and some other nutrients must be fortified to be equivalent to cow’s milk. Soy, Coconut and Almond Milks do not naturally contain much calcium at all.  Most are fortified but not all brands are.  It is important to read labels and understand that the calcium in fortified milks is not as readily absorbed as the calcium in cow’s milk.

Soy Milk

Nutrition Facts Soy Milk 100 Calories, 4g Fat, 7g Protein, 8g Carbohydrate, 30% DV Calcium

This beverage can be a great alternative if you are in need of a substitute for cow’s milk. Soy milk is considered a good source of calcium and other nutrients at 100 calories per glass (3). This milk also contains 7 grams of complete protein per cup. Soy is one of the few non-animal sources of complete protein. Research also shows that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day, along with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease (3). Since soy milk is a plant based product it is cholesterol free and also low in saturated fat.

Coconut Milk

Nutrition Facts: Coconut Milk 80 Calories, 5g Fat, 1g Protein, 7g Carbohydrate, 10% DV Calcium

At 80 calories per 8 ounce glass, coconut milk is similar to cow’s milk when it comes to calorie content and contains no cholesterol. However, this beverage isn’t a great source of protein at only one gram per cup. Unlike most plant products, coconut milk contains a significant amount of saturated fat.

Saturated fat intake should be limited to less than 7 percent of total daily calories or about 16 grams of saturated fats per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet (4). Three glasses of coconut milk would add 15 grams of saturated fat to your daily intake. Using small amounts of coconut milk in cooking to add a tropical flavor may be more appropriate than swapping it out for the three recommended servings of low fat dairy per day.

Almond Milk

 Nutrition Facts: Non-fat Skim Milk 60 Calories, 2.5g Fat, 1g Protein, 8g Carbohydrate, 45% DV Calcium

Almond milk is low in calories at only 60 per cup. This milk provides zero grams of cholesterol and zero grams of saturated fat. Almonds are rich in many nutrients; however almond milk provides far less protein than cow’s milk. One 8 ounce glass provides only 1 gram of protein. This milk is a good source of vitamins and minerals, but doesn’t stack up to cow’s milk in the protein department.

Conclusion: Some milk alternatives can provide a good source of nutrition for those avoiding cow’s milk. Just keep in mind that label reading is key when choosing an appropriate substitute to meet your needs.

References:

http://www.drink-milk.com/health-wellness/3-every-day.aspx

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Fats-and-Oils-AHA-Recommendation_UCM_316375_Article.jsp

http://silk.com/products/light-original-soymilk

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp

Written by: Molly Kayser, BGSU Graduate Student intern with Wood County Extension.

Reviewers: Susan Zies, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County.

Cheryl Barber Spires R.D., L.D. ,Program Specialist, SNAP- Ed, Ohio State University Extension, West Region

Sunshine, warm weather and spring rain usher in a new growing season for our local farmers. It won’t be long until we see the products of their efforts at a local farmer’s market.

Early markets will be opening up in the next few weeks. You can expect to see early crops such as asparagus, rhubarb aRedLentilRhubarbSoupnd maple syrup. As we get into May, there will be more of the greens showing up – kale, collards, and mustard greens. Check out the Ohio Farm Bureau’s OUR OHIO website for more information about fruits and vegetables in season, http://ourohio.org/food/whats-in-season. And, try this recipe for Red Lentil and Rhubarb Soup, http://ourohio.org/food/recipes/532/red-lentil-and-rhubarb-soup.

Written by: Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, goard.1@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County, Miami Valley EERA.

Oh My Aching…..

IMG_0692

If you are at all like me, you were anxious to get outside last weekend and enjoy the beginnings of spring! Whether you took a long walk, rode your bike or spent some time cleaning up your yard after a long hard winter, you can probably fill in the blank above with “Back”, ‘Legs”, “Neck”, etc.

It is amazing how muscles and joints that we don’t normally even think about can suddenly command our attention. The soreness and stiffness that we sometimes experience can make us hesitant to jump back into these activities again – but don’t give up! Learning more about preventing and treating sore muscles and aching joints will allow you to continue with the activities you enjoy.

There are several causes for sore muscles. It might be doing an activity that you are not used to or suddenly increasing the intensity of an activity. These changes can cause microdamage to the muscle fibers and connective tissue. It usually doesn’t hurt right away but about a day later you may start feeling sore. The good news is that it will ease in a day or two and the next time you do the activity, your muscles will start to get used to the movement and will become stronger and you’ll become less sore.

Pain in your joints is often a sign of osteoarthritis. The cartilage that cushions the joints wears away and can lead to increased pain with use of that joint. Pain can be caused by overuse or injury.

One way to help prevent sore muscles is through stretching. It is important to stretch properly.

Here are some stretching tips:

  • Stretching should never be painful but should cause your muscle to feel comfortably stretched but never distressed.
  • Take your time and ease into each stretch.
  • Hold it for 15 to 30 seconds and perform the stretch three times.
  • Breathe naturally when you are stretching – never hold your breath!

Always consult your physician before any type of physical activity – including stretching.

If you do have a sore muscle, most experts recommend using ice wrapped in a thin towel for immediate relief. This will help reduce inflammation then you can use heat later to increase blood flow to the area. Heat is often helpful for joint pain.

So, go outside, enjoy the warm spring weather that has finally arrived. But remember, ease into new activities to avoid the aches and pains!

Written by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@sou.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Treber.1@osu.edu

Sources: Managing Sore Muscles and Joint Pain.

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/art- sore-muscles-joint-pain

Stretching and Flexibility as We Age

http://ohioline.osu.edu/ss-fact/0171.html

Candy Counts Up Quickly!

Many families as part of their Easter celebration, give a child a basket filled with toys and sweet treats. These treats can really add up the calories and fat… a medium size chocolate bunny (4 ounces) can have 880 calories and 48 grams of fat!

Walk it Off!
Use this calorie counter to determine how far you’d need to walk to burn the calories from the candy in your Easter basket. For example, to walk off the calories consumed from eating 1¾ ounce hollow chocolate bunny (260 calories), you would need to walk 2.6 miles! You may think twice about the treats you put in your child’s basket, and also the ones you might sneak a taste of while you’re filling the eggs!

easter

Fun Alternatives to Candy
There are many ways you can give a child a treat to enjoy without all the calories and fat:
• Fill the basket with favorite fruits. Clementines are a nice colorful fruit that are easy to peel. Dried fruit is a good alternative too… it’s still sweet and filled with nutrients.
• Small toys or activity books. Here are some ideas to get you started:
o Bubbles
o Kites
o Seeds & gardening gloves
o Sidewalk chalk
o Bug catchers
o Art supplies
o Travel games
o Kids’ cookbooks & baking utensils
• Include family fitness toys like a soccer ball or jump rope.
• If you want to include some candy, use small packages to limit consumption.
• Make it a game to find the basket… kids love scavenger hunts. You can even attach a string to the basket that the child must wind up to find the treasure at the other end.
• Themed baskets are great fun for kids too… if they are in to a certain toy, you can add to their collection.

Have a Happy, Healthy Easter!

Sources:
Calorie Counter: http://walking.about.com/library/cal/bleastercalories.htm
Steeves, Ann. “Nutritious and Delicious—Alternatives to Easter Candy.” (2013). The University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824 – http://www.unh.edu/healthyunh/blogs/2013/03/alternatives-easter-candy
Image: http://www.gnclivewell.com.au/files/editor_upload/Image/healthy-easter.jpg

Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.
Reviewers: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu.

Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

mitochondria“M” word #1: Metabolism

Many of us blame our “slow” metabolism when we don’t lose weight as quickly as we would like. But what exactly is metabolism, and why does it vary so much from person to person? Metabolism is a complex network of hormones and enzymes that (1) converts food into fuel, and (2) affects how efficiently you burn that fuel. It is influenced by your age (it goes down about 5% per decade after the age of 40) and your gender (men burn more calories at rest than women). But the three primary factors affecting your metabolic rate include:

1. Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR),
2. The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), and
3. Your Physical Activity Energy Expenditure (PAEE).

The resting metabolic rate (RMR) reflects the number of calories you burn to maintain your body processes when you are at rest (sleeping, watching TV, sitting at your desk); it’s about 65-75% of your total daily calorie expenditure. The thermic effect of food (TEF) reflects how many calories you burn throughout the day digesting food; approximately 5-10%.

The third component of your metabolism, the physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE), is the most varied percent range (15-30%). How much above your RMR can you rise if you become physically active? It depends. People who exercise regularly develop more muscle mass, which increases the number of calories they can burn each day. To illustrate; a pound of muscle uses six calories a day to sustain itself. On the flip side, a pound of fat burns only two calories per day. That difference may not sound like a lot, but over time it really adds up.

So here’s the mathematical formula you need to memorize: RMR (doing nothing) + TEF (digesting food) + PAEE (physical activity) = Your Metabolism. I’m not a math geek, but even I can see that adding physical activity into your daily routine will benefit your weight loss goals by increasing your metabolism.

“M” word #2: Mitochondria

Mitochondria are tiny bean-shaped ‘organelles’ inside your muscle cells. The more exercise you do, the more your mitochondria grow in size and number. In case this didn’t sink in, I’m going to repeat it: the more exercise you do, the more your mitochondria grow in size and number.

The reason this is so important is because mitochondria are like little furnaces that chew up fats and sugars and spew out energy for your muscles to use. And they do it on demand. As you run, cycle, or swim, the mitochondria have to crank out more energy and consume more fat and sugar. At lower levels of intensity, your mitochondria can consume the bulk of their energy needs from fat. But as the intensity of your activity increases, they will begin to use muscle sugar (glycogen) as well.

If you have only a few mitochondria in your muscle cells, there will not be much fat and sugar burning action going on in there. Let’s say you took to heart what I just shared with you at the beginning of this article about your PAEE/metabolism. You decide to start exercising daily. At first, you will probably get tired and/or winded because there aren’t enough mitochondria to keep energy flowing to the muscles. But, (and here’s the awesome part), by the end of your exercise session your muscles will be producing more mitochondria. Eventually your muscle fibers will be stuffed full of mitochondria. Now exercise will get easier. You will be able to exercise longer with less effort.

And here is where all this information leads to weight loss. Your muscles start to burn more fat and sugar all the time – because mitochondria don’t sleep. Your ability to burn calories and lose weight has increased exponentially because you added physical activity to your daily routine. Mm, Mm, Good!

Writer:
Donna Green, Extension, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewed by:
Liz Smith, M.S, RDN., L.D. NE Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/make-most-your-metabolism

http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/morning-workout-increases-metabolism-throughout-day

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/exercise-for-energy-workouts-that-work

http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/Mitochondria.pdf

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